Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prayer requests

Sometimes it's hard work to be a Christian.

An effective one.

One that people can see a difference in.

Am I right?

It takes our being devoted to our times of prayer and study. That's how we learn from Him, and grow more like Him.

But it's hard, sometimes. The world has a way of pressing in on us. We have responsibilities, and if we don't do things, who will? (I see you nodding.)

But wait . . . if we don't spend the time with Him, in reading His Word, and praying, and listening . . . how can we possibly have the strength and wisdom to do all that we need to do?

We can't.

As Christians, as women who want to make a difference in our world for Him, our knees should be pretty calloused from kneeling in prayer. Our hands should be turning the pages of our Bibles, and our thoughts should be directed toward Him and by Him. And that means we need to set aside time for the "work" of learning from Him.
Oh, I know, you've heard this before. So have I. But I fall woefully short in this department. I need to apply some bandaids to my toes, since I've mashed them with this rebuke, and then get to work.

My prayer today is that God will forgive me for putting more time into the unimportant things of this world. And that He will meet me as I'm on my knees, putting time into the important stuff. The stuff of eternity.

Each time that we have a prayer request post, we hear of folks who have seen God at work in their lives. He is gracious and merciful, and blesses us abundantly. Oh, that we would work as hard in our own lives as He does!

Please let us know if we may pray with you, or if we may rejoice with you over answered prayers. Let's get to work, ladies, and make a difference in our world!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sick and tired of being sick and tired

What do you think of when I say, "Period"?
The dot at the end of the sentence?
Or the monthly cycle that we women experience?
It's been called menstruation, menses, the curse, and many other names.
In the Old Testament it was called "an issue of blood."

We know that there is a very important reason for our period. We know that all during the month, inside women of child-bearing age, the lining of the womb gradually increases, so that if a child is conceived, that lining is ready to receive and nourish that life. If that doesn't happen, that lining is "shed" and the blood exits the body.
Many times it's painful.
It can be inconvenient.
It can also be embarrassing.
If the flow is heavy or prolonged, it can be debilitating. The loss of blood means an accompanying loss of iron, and poor health can result.

That's just if it happens once monthly.
Now imagine you've had that happening for twelve years.
The woman in our story had been suffering that long. Much more than just being uncomfortable, or feeling tired and sick, she had also been "unclean."
In the book of Leviticus, chapter fifteen, we can read of the purity guidelines for men and women with these health issues. This woman was considered unclean. Anything that she touched while she had "an issue of blood" was unclean. She couldn't touch anyone, nor could they touch her, or else they would be unclean, too. She could not even allow her husband to touch her -- he himself would become unclean and unable to offer sacrifices or to enter the temple. Obviously, she couldn't go into the temple or the synagogue.

I'm sure she was desperate. The scriptures tell us that she had spent everything she had, "all her living," on doctors, but no one could help her. Mark's gospel tells us rather pointedly that she had suffered much at the hands of the doctors.
The scholars tell us that there were many "treatments" for this problem. Herbal remedies, wine with questionable ingredients mixed into it, carrying the ashes of an ostrich egg, or a barley corn, or a fox's tooth. Oy vey.
She had tried them all.
But she still had that issue of blood.
I'm certain that she had prayed mightily to Yahweh, to remove this problem from her, too. I'm sure that she pleaded with Him to heal her.
But she is depressed, and alone.
She might as well have been dead.

But then she hears about Jesus. And that He is coming to her town! Why, He has healed others, perhaps He can heal her!

She rushes to the town square, and stops, breathless from her exertion. (In her poor health, it would have been exhausting to run.) She sees Jesus in the midst of a crowd of people.
He's talking to someone who seems to be of high station, and the people are jostling about, peering over each other's shoulders, trying to see and hear what is going on.

To get to Him, she would have to touch others, and pass along her uncleanness.

What to do?

Join us next time as we study this amazing story.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mary of Bethany, conclusion

I think that the lesson that jumped out at me as I read the four different gospel accounts this week, was that the alabaster box of spikenard truly was very precious, but it became much more precious, and of benefit, when was poured out. You see, as long as it was inside the container, it didn't really benefit anyone. These containers were sealed as best they could in those days, and they would protect those seals to ensure that the perfume inside was just as wonderful when the box was opened, as when it was filled and sealed.

John's gospel notes that when the perfume was poured out upon Jesus that the aroma filled the house. What a powerful lesson here! The fragrance filled the house . . .

Jesus called Mary's act a "good work" and the notes in my margin say that the original would also have the meaning "a beautiful thing." Hasn't God blessed each of us a spiritual gift? It may be great faith, it may be knowledge or teaching, it may be the gift of natural and easy hospitality. But if we keep our gifts to ourselves, what is the benefit? It's our responsibility as Christians to figure out what our particular gift is (we've talked before about doing this) and then to use that gift for God's glory and the benefit of those around us.

The phrase "poured out" is one that is familiar to us, in our Bible. Many places in the Word tell us of offerings -- oil, wine, or water -- being poured out to God. They weren't put into a lovely container, and then placed on the altar to look pretty, nor were they handed back to the giver to use in their daily food preparation.
Does that seem wasteful to us? But we can see that the distinction is this: the offering is not a token act, or gesture. Pouring them out uses them up. How often have we prayed and offered ourselves to God, but then "taken ourselves back"? We need to begin looking at pouring ourselves out for God!
But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. (Philippians 2:17)
The Spirit of God is also poured out:
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3)
The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. (Acts 10:45)
The love of God is poured out daily in our hearts:
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:5)
And we cannot forget the pouring out of Christ's blood:
for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.(Matthew 26:28)
God, our Father, is so extravagant, so generous with pouring out His Spirit, His love, and Himself for us. Do we have the same heart as Mary, and offer ourselves in extravagant love to Him?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mary of Bethany, continued

This week we are studying Mary of Bethany, and her extravagant and sacrificial gift to Jesus . . .

She poured out her precious perfume from the alabaster container, and some called her wasteful. Some wondered why. Some may have even chastised her, as Judas did so, very loudly.

Let's learn from Mary today:

Did you think about the fact that when Mary walked away, with Judas' remark hanging in the air, she smelled like Jesus did? She had wiped his feet with her hair, and anointed him with the spikenard. The fragrance would have clung to her skin and clothing, as well. When we are truly devoted to worshipping our Lord, and to doing His will, we will spend as much time as we can in His presence. When we give of ourselves, others will sense that we have been with Him. Just as Moses in the Old Testament came back from speaking with Yahweh, and the people could see his shining face and his changed disposition, I'm certain that people could tell that Mary had been in the presence of Jesus, too. And they will see and sense that in us, too, if we are seeking His face and spending time with Him. We will show to others the mercy that Jesus has shown to us; we will love sinners in the same way that Jesus did.

There is another thing that we can learn from Mary here: she did what she could. And that is what Jesus said about her in Mark's gospel. Mary wasn't going to be able to stop the Pharisees and religious leaders from accusing Jesus. She could not persuade the false witnesses to change their testimony and go against the religious ringleaders of the plot against her Lord. There was no way that she could stop the soldiers from nailing Him to the cross, nor was there any way that she could stop the crowds that would mock Him and revile Him as He hung there, suffering. But this she could do: she could show her love and her worship by sacrificing the most precious of her material possessions.
Do we too often focus on what we can't do? Do we sit and wallow in our self-pity and say, "Well, I can't teach, or sing, or I'm too scared to give my testimony"? Ahh, but what CAN we do? Can we call someone on the phone and invite them to come and meet us at church? Can we purchase extra pantry items at the grocery store and contribute them to the church for fellowship meals, or for a charity for the local folks who need help? Can we email someone who we haven't seen in church for a while? Can we visit at the hospital? The list goes on . . . we can all work together to accomplish great things in His kingdom!

Here is another important lesson: Jesus told the disciples and other folks at the feast to leave her alone, and to stop criticising her. Do we devalue anyone's acts of service? Do we devalue our own? We should never, ever disregard nor devalue the acts of service that we do ourselves, nor those that we see others do. Why spend our time complaining, instead of joining in and worshiping our Lord?

What is Jesus worth to us? To Judas, He would soon be worth thirty pieces of silver. To Mary, He was worth everything she possessed. Is He worth putting money in the offering plate at church, or giving sacrificially to a special offering? Is He worth the time that we would have spent watching our favorite television show, but instead we call someone and make plans to be at church with them? Is He worth giving up the time that we wanted to do something else, to listen to someone pour out their heart and then to give them counsel from the Word? In Romans 12, we are exhorted to be "living sacrifices" -- that just means to give of ourselves, much and often! We can see that we are not just talking about money, we are talking about us. Are we using what we have, to bring honor and glory to Him?

If we follow Mary's example, we will ask ourselves what we can do. And then do it.

We will finish our study of Mary's extravagant love tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What are we listening to?

What a wonderful gift from God -- music is just that.

From the beginning of our universe by the Creator:
...while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy... (Job 38:7)
To the end of our world :
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: "Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever." (Revelation 5:13)
Our music-making participates in showing the beauty and joyfulness of God's creation. Our hearts are gladdened as we lift our voices to Him.

Out where we live, the birds truly do seem to fling their songs upward with abandon, as if to sing to the Lord. In the evenings, the frogs and crickets take over the job, as the birds settle quietly into their nests.

Let's join the creatures of this world and praise Him!

What are you listening to, today?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mary of Bethany - extravagant love

Do you love the Lord?

Well, of course, you answer.

I love Him with all of my heart and my soul, you say.

But how much, really?

I heard a pastor once say that true worship is when we sacrificially surrender to Jesus something that is precious to us. It could be money, or a material item. It could be our time. It could be almost anything.

In our story this week, it was an alabaster container of precious perfume.
This is one of the stories that is recorded in all four of the gospels; we find it in slightly differing details in Matthew 26, in Mark 14, in Luke 7, and in John 12.

Some people get really caught up in arguments about those different details. They will argue, fuss, and fight about whether or not there are two different annointings, or who the lady was, or anything else they can find to dispute. That's their thing, and they enjoy it. I would encourage all of us to read the four different accounts (details at the bottom of this post) and study it for ourselves. I'm hoping that we can draw some important things to learn in our journey to become more Christlike, without getting into the weeds of argument. (Grin)

Our story takes place just before the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when Jesus would ride in on the back of the donkey. Mark identifies the location as the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany -- we know virtually nothing about Simon, except that apparently he had suffered from the dreaded disease of leprosy, and the Jesus must have healed him.

In John's gospel, the woman is identified as Mary of Bethany, and he notes that Martha was serving at this meal and Lazarus (whom Jesus had raised from the dead) was sitting with Jesus. This has all led to some supposing that Simon may have been a relative of theirs. As Jesus sits with everyone, and all are enjoying the meal, Mary enters with her alabaster box of perfume. One gospel account notes that this is spikenard -- that is an oh, so, expensive import from the land of India. That tiny container of spikenard would have the same value as an entire year's salary for a common person of the day. Perhaps this was part of Mary's dowry, the special things set aside to go with her when she married. Perhaps, instead, it was part of  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus' wealth. In any case, it was very costly, and an extravagant and sacrificial gift.

It was a custom in that ancient culture to wash the feet of the guest to whom you extended the hospitality of your home and food. It was also customary to anoint the head of that guest. Mary goes way beyond; John's gospel says that she anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair -- and then she broke the tiny container and anointed Jesus' head.

What an outcry! Murmuring all around, and eyebrows raised. Voices, too! Judas is the loudest, protesting that Mary has wasted this precious perfume . . . after all, she should have sold it and given the money to the poor, instead of doing this. Oh, how this must have stung the worshipful heart of Mary. After giving all she had, and pouring out her heart and her perfume as an act of worship, she hears the disciples and other onlookers criticizing her.

Ah, but listen to how quiet the room is now. Only Jesus is talking -- He puts a stop to their criticism. He tells them to leave her be! He says that she has done a good work for Him; they can help the poor anytime they want to, but they won't have many more opportunities to show Him their devotion. He had told them several times before that He would be put to death in Jerusalem, and He tells them that Mary's act of worship and love will be the anointing for His death. (It was customary to first bathe and then anoint the body of a dead person before burial, and the container that had been emptied was broken and laid in the tomb along with the body.) Jesus knew that He would be put to death as a common criminal, and so He would not receive the proper anointing.

Jesus went on to tell them that wherever His gospel was preached, Mary's act of love would be remembered. And here we are today, studying Mary's extravagant love.

Please read these passages and join me next time: Mark 14:1-11. Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-8, Luke 7:36-50.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday slowdown

Where does our strength come from? 

How can we withstand the wiles of the devil? The "Delilah" that he prepares just for us?

You know.

Our strength comes from the Lord!

Enjoy this worship song as we complete this week's study:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Delilah - watch out!

Last time we studied, Samson had just told Delilah the truth. He told her the secret of his great strength. Oy vey.
Delilah was just the right person to take Samson down, to destroy him. That's why she was chosen.

We are in spiritual warfare each and every day on this earth. And the devil has weapons that have been made after studying each of us, and finding out what our weak points are. The devil's purpose is to destroy us. For some of us, it may be pride; for others it may be sexual sins; others may fall prey to self esteem issues, or drugs, loneliness, or a sudden financial fall.

Whatever weapons the devil has forged in his battle for our souls, we have this assurance:
No weapon formed against you shall prosper,And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,And their righteousness is from Me,”Says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17)
There is one important thing to remember, though, and it's something that Samson forgot. We have to follow God's rules! Samson kept playing around with sin. He kept doing things that he should not have, and that's what got him into trouble. In our own lives, there are things that we must do in order to receive that blessing of "no weapon" being able to prosper against us! We can't have one foot in the church and the other in a cocktail party, my grandma used to say. The Bible tells us to "come out from among them" and be a special people.

The Bible also gives us some super instructions on how to protect ourselves:

                 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
When we look at the armor detailed here, we see that the belt of truth will protect us from sexual sins; the breastplate of righteousness will protect our hearts from that special weapon, Delilah, that is the devil's "silver bullet" to bring us down. Our feet will be fitted with the gospel of peace, so we're not going to run into the places that we shouldn't go into. That shield that Paul mentions will protect us from the fiery darts and special missiles that the devil prepares just for us, with his knowledge of our flaws and sins. The helmet of salvation should go on our heads -- and what should be inside those heads? The mind of Christ . . .
                     Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.....               (Philippians 2:5)
The enemy won't be able to penetrate our minds and dig around to find our deepest secrets! Lastly, make sure that we are carrying the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Does this mean that we need to carry our Bible everywhere we go? Well, it's not a bad idea, but no, we don't have to. If we have been seeking God daily in our Bible studies and our prayers, the Word will be in our thoughts at a moment's notice, guiding us and instructing us.
Cathy noted recently that our weapons are mighty:
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of stronghold; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (II Corinthians 10:4-5)
Oh, if only Samson had followed the instructions! Delilah was able to penetrate his heart, and the Philistines conquered the mighty man of God.  That's not the end of his story, though. And if our own "Delilah," that certain thing or person that causes you and me to sin, has penetrated our hearts, there is more to our story, too.

Samson's strength returned later, when his hair grew and his prayers flew! The Philistines brought him out of prison to make "sport" of him, to laugh and insult and degrade him. The devil wants to do that to us, too, ya know. But when Samson prayed, the Lord heard his prayer, and in his own death he dealt a mighty blow to the Philistines, killing many of them within the walls of the building that he demolished.
So, too, God will hear our prayers, and will allow us to have a second chance.
A new start.
A fresh beginning.
Isn't that what grace is all about? Yup.

So take that verse to heart -- no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper! Grab that devil and tell him that the Delilah he prepared for you is no match for the Spirit of our God!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Delilah - watch out!

Of all the judges that led Israel, I guess there is not another that is as well known as Samson.

And Delilah? I'm guessing that most people, believers or unbelievers, know her, too. The Bible doesn't tell us about her looks, but she must have been gorgeous, for Samson to put up with her tricks and wiles. Oh, wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let me just say that we all have Delilahs in our lives.
We'll get back to that momentarily; for now, let's look at our story. This is a story that can play out in any of our lives. You don't think so?

Delilah was on a mission. She was determined to destroy Samson. And there is someone who is determined to destroy us, too.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12) 
You see, Delilah doesn't necessarily have to be a woman. She can be a man. She can be money. She can be that big house you've always wanted. She can be drugs. She can become, look like, anything she needs to, in order to cause your destruction.

Did you find some time to read all of the chapters that we mentioned?
It's a pretty fascinating story, isn't it? The man who will be Samson's dad is named Manoah; we don't have the mom's name recorded for us. The angel of the Lord appears to her and gives her exciting news -- she's going to have a son! He comes again and gives the instructions again, at the request of Manoah, who didn't see Him the first time. He ascends to heaven in flames, and the couple realize they have seen God. Later, Samson is born, and they make certain to raise him as they were instructed. The Bible tells us that the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him as he grew up.  He makes a rather poor choice of a prospective wife: he chooses a Philistine woman. Come on, Samson, you want a wife from the nation that is oppressing your people?

He appears to have a sense of humor and a bit of a sporting streak, as he wagers them some fine clothes if they can solve his riddle. They convince his fiancee to wheedle the answer out of him (he seems to have a weak spot for women who cry and ask questions) and after hearing her crying for seven days, he gets tired of it, and reveals the answer. Of course, she runs and tells the others, and they "solve" it. He is so angry that he "struck down" thirty men and gave their clothes to the men who won the wager. He leaves, and they give the fiancee to someone else! The next chapter in Judges details his vengeance on the Philistines . . . he could be fiercely angry, and he was incredibly strong. He slew a great number of the oppressors. That brings us to when he fell for Delilah.

Now, Delilah didn't set her cap for Samson on her own. She was promised a huge sum; she would be wealthy if she succeeded. You see, Samson had been leading Israel and wreaking havoc on the ungodly Philistines for twenty years, just as God had intended. But the Philistines were oh, so ready to get rid of him! So five of them conspired, and told Delilah they would pay her handsomely.

The same thing can happen in our lives . . . there is indeed a conspiracy - the devil and his demons work together to accomplish their aim. They do want to destroy us, and they send something different into each person's life; it is something that works just for that person! Yes, they figure out what and who and when and where, and then they begin to work on us. When the time is right, they spring the trap.
Back to our story of Delilah . . .
For Samson, Delilah used more than just sex. What did the conspirators tell her? "Entice him..."is what the King James says, and the NIV says "lure him" into trusting you. Samson may have struggled with an ego as large as his strength! So Delilah worked her wiles on him and enticed him, flattered him, cajoled him. Can't you just see her, running her fingers through his hair?

Delilah was just the "magic bullet" that the Philistine conspirators needed . . . and did she hit the mark! Three times he told her something that was supposed to make him just the same as any man; three times she tried the procedure (don't ya think he'd catch on?) and he shook off the ropes and ties and laughed at her. She began to whine and complain and cry and . . . and . . . well, you get the picture. It worked once before, right? Well, it worked this time, too!

He told her.
The truth.
We'll conclude our study of Delilah next time!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Verses that inspire

So many times, we are blessed by other people, as they show us something that they have learned from the Scriptures.

I had an experience like that recently.

A Christian physician, after prayer, reminded me that I Peter 5:7 is indeed a wonderful verse:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
But then he asked me, "do you recall what I Peter 5:6 says?"

I had to admit that I did not.

He refreshed my memory:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 
Think about it for a minute . . .

Before we "cast our cares" on Him, what should we do? Humble ourselves. My imagination began to work overtime -- is yours?

Can you imagine the mighty hand of God, reaching down into our tiny lives? Moving. Working. Chastening. Blessing.

And what is the end result . . . He will lift us up in "due time."

Oy vey. How many times do we tearfully say to God, "Please, fix this now!"

Perhaps we should be saying, "Yes, Lord, I know that in YOUR time, this will be fixed. In the meantime, I will look for the lesson you want me to learn."

I was convicted. And then inspired to do better.

Has a verse meant a great deal to you recently? Let us know in the comments, so that others can be blessed by what you've learned from His Spirit.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Delilah - watch out!

If you are a fan of classic movies, as I am, it's difficult to forget the images of beautiful Hedy Lamarr playing the part of Delilah, in the Bible-based movie starring Victor Mature as Samson.

We're all familiar with the story . . . but let's refresh our memories of the passage:
Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”
So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”11 He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.13 Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric 14 and tightened it with the pin.Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength. 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.
20 Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. 22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

We tend to forget a lot of Samson's story.
We focus on this section, and don't pay much attention to the rest.
We forget that angels foretold his birth to his parents. That they gave specific instructions as to her pregnancy, and the child's upbringing. That he was a judge over Israel.
We forget all that, because, well, Delilah is just so memorable! And so deceitful!
To prepare for this week's study, I'd like to ask you to read the thirteenth through sixteenth chapters of Judges. I know there's a lot there, but I think we'll all get more from the study if we are prepared. (Grin)
See you next time!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday slowdown

I remember this song from our kiddos' Vacation Bible School days....it's so upbeat and fun, that I thought I would share it with you today.

David and Jael both killed their "Goliaths" and God's purpose was accomplished.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Jael - she slew a "Goliath"

Have you wondered during this story why this is in our Scriptures? Have you considered why Jael did what she did?

Perhaps Jael believed in the Israelites' God. Or perhaps she wanted to be favored by the nation who had won the battle that day.  In any case, Deborah and Barak sang of her being "blessed of women."

Perhaps the most important point to note in this chapter is that this was a decisive and courageous woman, who helped God's people at a crucial time in their history. This was a woman that God used to accomplish His purposes.

Remember the "back story" that we studied when we looked at Deborah? God had promised never to forget His people. Now, that doesn't mean that the people of Israel were always faithful . . . in fact, they wiggled and wavered and whined an awful lot. In the good times, it was easy to be happy and grateful to God. But then the hard times would come. And they would stray from their God to false gods, and complain, and complain. Then when the really hard times would come, and they'd be under the thumb of another ruler or strongman -- why, then they would remember the Lord and come running and ask Him to help them out.

What the two stories tell us, the stories of Deborah and of Jael, is that God is always faithful, and He is always working to bring about His plans.

Do we act like the Israelites sometimes? Are we eager to go it on our own, and think we can handle everything? And then when we hit an obstacle too big for us, we come running back to Him?

This is the amazing part: He is always there.

He will always forgive us.
If we'll ask.

He will always help us.
If we ask.

We have this hope. that He will rescue us as He did Paul:
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (II Corinthians 1:8-11)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Jael - she slew a "Goliath"

We're studying Jael this week, the wife of Heber the Kenite - her husband was a business man and made supplies for the Canaanites. In our narrative in the book of Judges, we see Deborah, the prophetess, accompany Barak to the battle. She tells him, though, that the glory for the victory will not be his, for his opponent would fall "by the hand of a woman."

When the battle turns into a rout, Sisera flees the scene, and approaches the tent of Jael. Notice again, he did not approach the tent of her husband -- to do that would have ensured a completely different outcome, since that would have been a more ritualistic hospitality, and as a guest, he not only would have received food and drink, but would also have received protection.

Anyway, back to our story . . . When Sisera approaches her tent, Jael greets him and invites him inside. He's in a bad way. He's exhausted and fearful. He must be looking over his shoulder just about every other second. Jael covers him with a blanket or rug -- he must have been wanting to hide. She also hands him something to drink when he requests it.

He tells her to respond "no" if anyone comes to the tent and asks if anyone is there . . . he sinks into an exhausted sleep. As he lies asleep, Jael picks up her hammer and a tent peg, and drives it through his temple into the ground. (This is a strong woman. She is accustomed to erecting her own tent, where she and her children reside, each time the tribe moves to a new spot. She can swing that hammer quite well, and place her pin expertly.) A very graphic description of a murder. Whatever her motivation, the story and the song in chapter five both consider her actions the will of God.

Jael fulfills Deborah's prophecy, but she raises some questions. If we were reading this story and didn't already know the outcome, we might have been apprehensive for the safety of the woman, after the general came into the tent. Jael did offer to help him, and gave him something to drink -- was she perhaps irritated by his attitude? The Bible doesn't mention his gratitude, just that he told her to lie if someone asked his whereabouts . . . maybe he was imperious, or rude, and that made her mad. Or maybe she felt that kinship with the Israelites, because her husband was related to Jethro, Moses' father in law.

Whatever her motives, she is an instrument of God in this story. She fulfills prophecy, and she shames both Sisera (killed by a woman), and the living Israelite general, who didn't slay him. She is regarded as a national hero.
Faced with a man who was her superior in size and physical strength, Jael used courage and her wits. She brings to mind the young shepherd boy, David, when he faced Goliath.

Both Jael and David were smaller and weaker than their opponent, and both of them used unusual weapons to accomplish their purposes. Both of them used their wits instead of the usual military methods (remember how David rejected the armor that was offered to him?). And both of them were successful in the slaughter of their enemies (both were pretty gruesome, too!).

We'll conclude our study of Jael tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Prayer requests - updated

UPDATE: I wanted to thank all of you who prayed with me last week as I ministered to someone recovering from major surgery. God is good! She came through very well and is healing just as hoped for. Thank you for lifting me up; I needed a lot of strength, and I could feel God's peace as I worked. Praise Him for His faithfulness!

Each time that we share prayer requests, I'm reminded of the special and comforting verses in John's gospel:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17This is my command: Love each other. (John 15: 1-17)
As we pause today, we first affirm that we love Him, and then that we love one another. And one way to show that love is to give our full attention to the needs of others.

As we begin to pray, we should start with thanksgiving. When we thank the Lord for things, do we just say, "Oh, thank you Lord, for all my blessings."
Or do we say, "Thank you, Lord, for my warm and cozy home. Thank you for the food in my refrigerator."
"Thank you for my health."
"Thank you for my loving and supportive husband/father/mother (you insert the person!)."

I began thinking about this when we studied Miriam.
Moses' song, which Miriam then led the women in singing, was very specific! He thanked God for the fact that the horses and men had been "hurled into the sea." And he went on to pick out particular things to mention to God, and to be grateful for.

I hope that we will imitate Moses in this way. Let's thank our Father for specific things, and show our gratitude to Him. Then let's ask for His comfort, His intervention, His assistance with specific things in our lives.

Leave a comment here today and let us know how we can join you in prayer. What is in your heart? What is on your mind?
Share it and know that we are praying alongside you.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Jael - she slew a "Goliath"

This week we will complete our study of the story in Judges, and we'll meet the second woman who figures largely in the story: Jael.

Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite,because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.
18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.
19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.
20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”
21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.
22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.
23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites.24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him. (Judges 4:16-24)
Last week, we saw that the battle, which should have been won easily by the Canaanites, was a victory for the children of Israel. Yahweh was in control here, not the Jabin, or his general, Sisera.
There was a tremendous downpour -- those nine hundred iron-trimmed chariots would have been able to maneuver quickly on firm ground, but in the mud? Not so much. They became bogged down and the Israelite foot soldiers had the advantage.
It is an interesting side note here, to know that Baal, the main god of the Canaanites, was god of storms and weather, but they lost the battle because of a storm!

Now let's meet our heroine: Jael was the wife of Heber, who is described as a "Kenite." These nomadic people were known for being tinsmiths, or metal-workers, who made farming implements, home utensils, and weapons. They would pack up their tents and travel to where they could find work, and they may have pitched their tents nearby, seeing the possibility of a battle, and the opportunity to supply weaponry.

Heber, Jael's husband, was related to the children of Israel, for he was descended from Jethro, Moses' father in law. So, they probably sympathized with the Israelites, but apparently Heber was a sensible man, and a man of business, so he was on pretty good terms with the Canaanites by supplying them with metal items. (Grin) Sisera would have seen their encampment as a refuge, or safe haven.

Now, the ancient laws of hospitality in the Middle East were pretty strict. The guest, once he was ritually invited into the home, was to be cared for and even protected. But, to make things clear, that was ritual hospitality that was offered by the man, the head of the household.
Jael offered help, not that special hospitality . . .

We'll see the rest of this story unfold the next time we study.